Symptoms, Transmission, Treatment and Testing
COVID-19 can spread quickly in our communities. Follow these steps to take care of yourself and protect others.
Masks may still be required in certain places, such as healthcare settings, public health clinics, hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and other congregate living settings. It is important to stay home when experiencing any symptoms to prevent the spread of illness to others.
Individuals who live, work, volunteer or are admitted to any of the highest risk settings must follow the steps outlined by the Ministry of Health.
What to do if you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19
- If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), stay home until you have no fever and symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you have gastro-intestinal symptoms) and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment for more detailed instructions:
- Inform your household members and close contacts* that you are sick and refer them to precautions in protecting yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses
- Wear a mask in public spaces and avoid vulnerable settings (such as a hospital, a long-term care home, or a retirement home) for 10 days after your fever is gone and symptoms have improved for 24 hours
*Close contact is someone within two metres of you for at least 15 minutes or multiple short periods without appropriate measures such as masking, distancing and/or the use of appropriate PPE in the 48 hours before your symptoms began or a positive test result.
- If you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or someone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you are advised to take additional precautions for 10 days after your last exposure:
- Self-monitor for new or worsening symptoms
- Wear a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask when in close contact with others
- Avoid activities where you need to take off your mask, such as dining out
- Avoid non-essential visits to highest risk settings in the community such as hospitals and long-term care homes
- Do not visit anyone who is at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors or people who are immunocompromised)
COVID-19 clinical assessments
A clinical assessment centre can test, assess and provide treatment options for COVID-19. You should visit one if you have symptoms and:
- Are at higher risk for COVID-19 and need to get tested and assessed for treatment (including antiviral treatment)
- Have been directed by your primary care provider
You do not need to have a positive test result to visit. You should bring a list of your medications and a list of any important medical conditions.
Testing for COVID-19
Who is eligible for a PCR test?
Publicly-funded molecular or PCR testing is available for select groups as considered high-risk and/or prioritized by the Ministry of Health.
If you have symptoms but are not eligible for testing, assume you have COVID-19 and follow the steps outlined in protecting yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
Where to get a PCR test?
PCR testing is available for eligible individuals only by appointment at the local COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
Please do not attend a hospital emergency department for testing.
Rapid Antigen Testing
Rapid antigen tests will only be available at retailers while their supplies last.
A list of participating retailers can be found at ontario.ca/rapidtest
As of June 30, 2023, anyone who is at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, including high-priority communities and those living and working in high-risk settings will continue to have access to free rapid antigen tests and be eligible for PCR testing at designated pharmacies.
How To Get Your PCR Test Results
The Ontario government online test results portal offers secure access to PCR test results on your computer or mobile device. Test results will be available in 1 to 6 days after your test.
Please note: the test results portal does not work with Internet Explorer or iOS 11 and older. You might also need to disconnect from your corporate network or virtual private network (VPN).
COVID-19 test results will not appear on the MSH Patient Connect portal. You can check your results at the Public Health Ontario COVID-19 results website.
York Region Public Health will only contact individuals related to a high-risk case if you receive a positive result for COVID-19 from a York Region emergency department, COVID-19 Assessment Centre, or pharmacy.
The symptoms listed on the provincial COVID-19 self-assessment tool include the most common symptoms of COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever (a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher) and/or chills
- Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
- Decrease or loss of taste or smell
- For children under 18 years of age: nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- For adults over 18 years of age: muscle aches, joint pain and/or extreme tiredness
Other symptoms of COVID-19 include sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, abdominal pain, headache, pink eye or lack of appetite.
When assessing for any symptoms, the focus should be on evaluating if they are new, worsening, or different from an individual’s usual state. Symptoms should not be chronic or related to other known causes or conditions.
If you have any severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, call 911.
Complications from COVID-19 can include serious conditions, like pneumonia, and in some cases, death.
Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:
- People over 70 years of age
- People who are immunocompromised or those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease
Additional Information on COVID-19 symptoms and children, including screening guidance, testing options, and when to stay home from school or child care is available on the Staying Safe at School and child care page.
York Region Public Health does not provide testing for COVID-19.
How COVID-19 Spreads - Transmission
COVID-19 transmission occurs through large respiratory droplets and smaller droplets called aerosols depending on multiple factors including:
- Forceful expulsion of respiratory droplets (e.g. singing, shouting, exercising, coughing, sneezing)
- Amount of virus present (e.g. more virus is present early in an individual’s infection)
- Type of contact (e.g. longer and closer contact with an infectious person is associated with higher risk)
- Environmental conditions (e.g. being outdoors and good ventilation are associated with lower risk)
- Personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, wearing a well-fitted mask and being vaccinated reduce the risk)
Under certain factors aerosols can remain suspended in the air for some time and play a role in transmission at longer distances.
Wearing a well fitted mask, physical distancing and being outdoors or in well-ventilated indoor spaces all reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 droplet and aerosol transmission.
The highest risk for transmission still remains close prolonged contact (generally less than two metres) with an infected individual.
While our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission has evolved, the key prevention measures have not changed. What we have learned is a combination of measures is the most effective way to prevent transmission.
Households have the highest risk of transmission from a case:
- Household members should follow the guidance on protecting yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses
Contact tracing aims to interrupt the spread of disease between an infected person and the ring of close contacts around them.
Close contacts include people you live with, have had intimate relationships with or people who have cared for you or you have cared for (for example, with bathing, feeding or dressing), people that you have visited with, spent time with at school, work, or have come into your home.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, follow all provincial guidance and precautions for close contacts and inform your household members and other similar contacts that you are symptomatic and to follow provincial guidance.
Pharmacists can now prescribe a free oral antiviral medication to treat eligible adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at a higher risk of progressing to serious disease, including hospitalization or death. Antiviral treatments must be taken immediately within the first five to seven days (depending on the treatment) of symptom onset.
A screener tool is available to help determine if you are at higher risk and should be assessed for treatment.
If you have symptoms and are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, seek testing and care immediately by either:
- Contacting a pharmacist who is prescribing Paxlovid
- Visiting a clinical assessment centre (where you can get tested, assessed, and provided treatment or a prescription)
- Contacting a primary care provider (for example, your family doctor)
Available Antiviral Medications
Paxlovid is an antiviral medication that can be taken by mouth at home and must be taken within five days of symptoms starting.
All eligible individuals can get Paxlovid for free from participating pharmacies. Paxlovid prescriptions also remain available through any physician or nurse practitioner in Ontario as well as clinics assessment centres across the province.
Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that must be taken intravenously (IV) at a designated clinic.
Remdesivir must be taken within seven days of the start of symptoms.